Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Bosnian Serb president names prime minister


Bosnian Serb President Dragan Cavic on Saturday named Pero Bukejlovic of the ruling nationalists as the entity's next prime minister and asked him to form a government.

The move follows last month's resignation of moderate prime minister Dragan Mikerevic in protest at international sanctions imposed over the failure of Bosnia's Serb-run half to arrest war crimes fugitives.

Bosnian Serbs have yet to arrest a single war crimes suspect wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Bukejlovic, a 58-year-old mechanical engineer, is a member of the powerful Serb Democratic Party (SDS).

The party was founded in the early 1990s by the wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the most wanted fugitive from the UN war crimes court.

Bukejlovic told reporters that, if confirmed prime minister, his priorities would include "resolving social issues, speeding up the privatization process and improving cooperation with the tribunal at The Hague."

A former industry and technology minister in the 2001-2003 government, Bukejlovic also pledged to work for political stability in the Bosnian Serb Republika Srpska (RS).

"Political disputes should be put aside since the main goal is a stable Republika Srpska," he said.

Bukejlovic emphasized that "only a stable and prosperous Republika Srpska can contribute to a stable, prosperous and functional Bosnia."

Bosnia was divided into two semi-independent entities, the Serbs' RS and the Muslim-Croat Federation, following the 1992-95 war.

Linked by weak central institutions, each entity has its own government, parliament, army and police.

According to the Bosnian Serb constitution, the prime minister designate has 40 days to propose his cabinet to the RS parliament.

The top international envoy to Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, last month used the far-reaching powers provided by the peace deal which ended the 1992-1995 war to dismiss nine Bosnian Serb officials for failing to pursue war crimes suspects.

Ashdown also ordered that the parallel defense ministries in the country's entities be abolished and that police activities be centralized.

His moves angered Bosnian Serbs who oppose any centralization of authority, seeing it as a threat to their autonomy.

They provoked the resignation of Mikerevic, as well as Bosnia's foreign and transport ministers, two of the four Serb representatives in the country's central government.

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